The Central African Republic and the European Union (EU) have reiterated their commitment to make effective the implementation of their Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) aimed at curbing illegal logging. The Financing Agreement signed in 2012 with the EU is about to be implemented and will significantly contribute to this implementation.
Both Parties expressed their commitment to pursue this goal at the fourth meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) of the VPA held on Wednesday, 7 February 2018, in Bangui. This Agreement is part of the EU initiative on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).
This meeting serves to review the implementation of the Agreement with all stakeholders. Following the discussions between technical experts held on Monday and Tuesday 5-6 February, the recommendations formulated were validated and officially adopted during the formal session of the following day. This session was co-chaired by Ms Samuela Isopi, Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Central African Republic for the European part, and by Mr Lambert Lissane Moukove, Minister for Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing for the Central African Republic.
The Parties agreed that the restoration of forest control on the ground is essential for the deployment of the future legality assurance system. It will be the culmination of various prerequisites, including institutional and organisational capacity building, long-term financing resolution, and transparency in monitoring and reporting operations.
The Parties also agreed to reactivate as soon as possible the five operating and development licences that are currently still not operational, and to encourage the processing of wood at the rate outlined in law (70 per cent). The Parties emphasised that the domestic market is insufficiently supplied with legal timber and noted the need to revise the forest policy in this respect. It should be noted that the Central African Republic is the only country that has not included the domestic market in the application of its VPA with the EU. The Parties therefore emphasised that the domestic market must not be an illegal source of repackaging of timber for export.
They agreed that the boom of informal forestry activities linked to the growing demand for timber is a challenge for governance. In this context, solutions will be explored to integrate illegal operators into a formal framework. These may include awareness raising, community forest development, clarification of the status of artisanal permits, conservation of biomass through REDD+ activities, and promulgation and harmonisation of codes.
Other topics discussed at the JIC meeting included: the usefulness of Mandated Independent Observation; the need to engage in a dialogue around the issue of community forests; possible coordination mechanisms between technical and financial partners; and the mobilisation of the financing agreement provided for the legal assurance system.
The Parties also adopted an action plan for 2018, specifying deadlines, deliverables and people responsible.
The fifth meeting of the JIC is scheduled for November 2018.